September 20, 2015
Yun Kouga – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes
Eh. I actually did like the Raphael/Michael story. It was set almost entirely in the past, when they were in school. We also got to learn who Lucifel was. She was mentioned as a Rather Significant person in the story, but none of that was ever cleared up. We learn who she is to Michael (CREEPY), who she is to Gabriel, and about the war between her and Michael. She’s… kind of a good character? Combative, very individualistic. Takes what she wants, which throws Raphael off. But I cannot deal with the relationship between her and Michael.
After glimpsing what looked like a rather intimate relationship between Gabriel and Michael… there actually isn’t one here. The relationships are mostly Lucifel’s. In that, I was horribly disappointed.
The Secret Garden story takes up a little more than half the volume. There’s a cute, short color story set when Chihaya and Kagetsuya were still working as partners, then a sort of epilogue… where the characters talk about what’s going on with everything but Chihaya and Kagetsuya. We… never actually see them. Which is pretty upsetting, given the ending of the main series.
There’s an adorable story about Chihaya and some mermaids. I couldn’t figure out how that fit into the scheme of things, but it was cute, and I appreciated that.
There’s also extensive notes (“Recipes”) in the back from Kouga from the original run of Earthian. I enjoyed the last one, where she talked about how her career was evolving while she drew Earthian. Very interesting.
Hmm… hm. I think this volume was probably the best in the series, though I still like Chihaya and Kagetsuya best, and they weren’t in it. As for the series as a whole… it’s very pretty, and a very interesting work, but… worth tracking down? I don’t know that the BL crowd will dig it (there’s barely any romance), and those looking for a good sci-fi story can find better elsewhere. Fans of Kouga might want to check it out… but if you’re coming from Loveless, you’d be better off picking up Crown of Love. You’ll probably be disappointed with this. Especially if you start with volume one. On the hypothetical third hand, this is available from eManga, so there’s no risk in giving the digital version a try if you are so inclined. But the Blu edition is beautiful, as I’ve mentioned before.
August 30, 2015
Yun Kouga – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes
Ahh… hm. Hmm. So, the story ends here. The fourth volume is a gaiden volume, that sounds like it’s mostly about Raphael and Michael.
Honestly, I’m not really clear on what happened here? Maybe because it took me a couple months to pick up volume 3 after I finished 2. But I don’t think that’s it.
The ‘;plot comes back with a vengeance here. The black angels are suddenly all about attacking Eden. Also, when I say black angels, there’s also suddenly an army of them. Some of them are offspring, which hasn’t come up before now. Elvira also has a new lover who isn’t introduced… he’s just kind of there. Also, just as suddenly, Raphael decides to attack and eradicate humans/Earthians. It’s not really clear why he’s doing this, though he does mention offhandedly one time that it may be because the humans are destroying Earth. But this doesn’t really make sense, since the angels have their own land/planet that is doing just fine, and killing all Earthians won’t save the angel race. In fact, Michael points this out, and puzzles over it just as I did.
The story leaves a lot of loose ends. It basically ends in the middle of an explosion. An explosion that isn’t… really well explained? They need to cripple the transporter on the Metatron, but since it’s already near Earth, this only makes it so they can’t go back? Maybe they need to go back because the black angels also damaged the ship? Maybe they get scared when they realize they can’t go back? But then Chihaya, Kagetsuya, and Raphael are apparently back on Isana?
Hopefully more will be explained in one or two stores in the gaiden volume?
So let’s ignore the hot mess that is the second half of this volume. What we actually came for is in the first half. The second volume ended in a rather spicy place, but apparently that didn’t go anywhere. It goes a little bit of (well-masked, because this is a Wings series) somewhere here. Hilariously, Kagetsuya and Chihaya are interrupted almost immediately, which is the only way they would get in trouble for their relationship, other than their guilty consciences. I say this is funny, because Michael and Raphael have obviously been involved for some time, but have never been caught.
The aftermath isn’t that funny though, and is rather heartbreaking. I felt bad for everyone, but I thought it was a nice touch that Kouga spotlighted Michael here, Chihaya’s foster father. Michael is torn up about it all, especially the fact that Chihaya and Kagetsuya are scheduled for execution for their homosexual indiscretion. Again, I’m blown away by the logic in this series. The race of angels are dying out, so they have strict laws against homosexuality since they want the birth rate to increase. But to enforce this, they kill members of their dying race? I suppose I really shouldn’t think too hard about it.
Kouga has some lovely art in this book, and there are even a couple color pages for us to ogle. Some truly nice layouts, and even a few that incorporate both pages, which I am a sucker for. That messy battle at the end may be confusing, but since it takes place in the sky, space, and the void, there’s some truly great composition at work there.
Hm. The Blu editions aren’t pricey right now, and you can also buy the series digitally at eManga. I suspect most will be disappointed with it. But it does have lovely art, and there’s a beautiful love story buried in there somewhere (which I suspect will continue in volume 4, I can’t wait to read more about Michael and Raphael). I’d say go for it if you’re up for a challenge. If you’re a big book nerd, the Blu editions may be worth hunting down. They’ve got colored pages, high quality paper, a textured, shiny cover, and are generally Very Nice.
July 21, 2015
Yun Kouga – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes
You know, I don’t give Kouga enough credit for her art. Her pages look AMAZING here. She draws very pretty series. Her character designs do suffer a little bit for it, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off. The later stories in this volume are absolutely gorgeous. Great composition, good mood, lots of pretty shoujo effects, and her linework is lovely.
I’m… not entirely convinced this is actually BL/yaoi. It ran in Wings… which has other, similar borderline series, but what I’ve read from there I would consider more shoujo than BL. Antique Bakery is another fellow Wings alumni that I wouldn’t call BL. Tokyo Babylon is as well, and is also not BL, though Subaru and Seishirou are sort of in a relationship. Adekan also ran in Wings, and while it wishes with all its heart it was about the two main characters having sex, realistically, there isn’t any romance between the two at all. I think the distinction, for me, is if the relationship is featured alongside a plot that is just as important to the series. Many/most chapters of Earthian are not really about Chihaya and Kagetsuya’s relationship most of the time (though that the plot interferes with it in this volume is definitely a factor). This is a fine line, because you could argue that Crimson Spell also has a plot that takes over after the first volume. But Crimson Spell also features many chapters of graphic sex, so I feel like that’s the other factor.
Again, I’ve heard about this as a BL classic for years, and it was published by Blu, who I thought mostly did smut. But unless the next volume convinces me, I’m going to pull it from my BL tags. It doesn’t have what I’m looking for in a BL series.
The second volume endeared me much more than the first. The plot picks up, as Seraphim and Elvira do their thing. Elvira vows vengeance on angel-kind for Seraphim needing to live as an outcast. Meanwhile, because Seraphim was the head of the pluses count in the Earthian do-or-die thing the angels were working on, Chihaya and Kagetsuya are recalled to heaven and split up, since Chihaya is the only one who can take Seraphim’s place. Chihaya is initially okay with this, which bugs Kagetsuya. The split eventually wears on both, until Chihaya demands they be partnered up again towards the end of the volume. The last chapter lets us know that both are still too clueless to really express their feelings, or be a couple, though Kagetsuya is now “in season.” If that ends with this last chapter, I’m going to be disappointed. Kouga dumps sexual symbolism in heavily (and it is very, very pretty), but again, both characters seem clueless to what’s between them.
Kagetsuya and his new partner are sent down to retrieve Elvira, who has all of Seraphim’s data on the black angel disease (the disease that killed him). Elvira proves to be a handful, and doesn’t really want to cooperate unless she gets to see Eden.
Chihaya is depressed with his new position, and takes a break to visit android boy and his fire-starter girlfriend from last volume. There’s a couple chapters that feature that pair, and the girlfriend’s insecurities about not being good enough for him.
There are also a few… Seraphim/Elvira chapters. These are CREEPY. Elvira is Seraphim’s daughter, and it’s clear she has a huge sexual crush on him. She makes herself grow to adulthood fast so that she can be a suitable mate (she’s actually… not very old at all, maybe 2?). Seraphim also eventually admits he desires his own daughter. They have a couple chapters together, though again, no physical relationship is implied between them.
There’s also some chapters about Kagetsuya’s new partner, the two of them working together, and he and Chihaya eventually butting heads at the end of the volume.
More coherent story, and while I don’t like all the side characters, I was pretty engrossed in the story here. I think the next volume wraps up the main story (I assume the “main story” has something to do with Elvira, and the synthetic boyfriend/girlfriend pair?), and volume 4 is a gaiden volume of short stories. I’m promised Raphael/Michael stories in that volume. I’m excited about that. I hope there’s some Chihaya/Kagetsuya as well.
June 16, 2015
Yun Kouga – Blu – 2005 – 4 volumes
I’ve always been partial to Yun Kouga. Reading this, I realize her work has a lot of the same weaknesses, which are especially glaring here since this is such an early work (from, I believe, 1988).
Her characters really, really look the same. Chihaya is dark-haired, and Kagetsuya is light-haired. Sometimes, Chihaya doesn’t have his hair shaded, and it’s not clear who is speaking (they technically have different hairstyles as well, but the wispy, indistinct art also sometimes blurs this line). In one chapter where the narrative shifts, it took me quite some time to realize the main character wasn’t Kagetsuya, just someone who looked and kind of acted like him.
The narrative also jumps around. A lot. At one point, we are told that Chihaya has shown his wings to two people, including someone named Toki. This actually made me flip back to the first chapter, since I didn’t remember him showing his wings to that character, nor did I think that person was named Toki. I was right, he’s describing something we haven’t seen. Then, the narrative jumps from the present to the past (in the middle of a rather dramatic decision), to tell the story of how he and Kagetsuya met. Then, the narrative shifts again, and we learn about a character named Toki meeting a little girl he names Chihaya (this was the one where it took me a long time to figure out Toki wasn’t Kagetsuya). Neither Kagetsuya nor Chihaya is in this chapter, and their relationship to Toki isn’t explained. After that, we get a story about how Toki and Chiyaha met. Then it goes back to the present for the last couple stories in the volume.
I’m willing to bet at least part of this was… maybe a doujinshi, but at best, serialized irregularly. This would have been around Kouga’s debut, so the scattered nature might be due to an irregular serialization. Still, it ain’t so great collected into a sequential volume like this. Having said that, I would have hated for this material to be left out… I just wish it was organized a little better. And, hopefully, it was serialized more regularly after this, and later volumes have a continuous narrative.
Anyway, angels are evaluating humans. Chihaya is the kind, overachieving angel who is grading humans based on good actions, Kagetsuya is the curmudgeonly angel who is tallying up the bad. Whichever side gets to 10,000 actions first wins (minuses means humanity is eradicated). Chihaya is also a rare “black mutation,” and all other angels are white. There is a relationship implied between Chihaya and Kagetsuya, though it’s not romantic as of yet. It is forbidden though (mysteriously, m/f relationships are not), and they would both be excommunicated and possibly killed if they fell in love with one another.
Confusingly, there are relationships heavily implied between a lot of the angels. Uriel makes no secret of having a huge crush on Chihaya later in the volume. A relationship is also heavily implied between Michael and Raphael. So… there’s that.
This was a tough volume to make my way through, and I usually do like Yun Kouga. It picked up some momentum after the narrative stabilized towards the end, and I’m curious to see how it continues into a second volume. I’m a little confused by the Blu imprint, since they usually published more explicit series… and Kouga is normally CLAMP-like in her implied-but-not-confirmed BL relationships. I’m trying to picture Kagetsuya and Chihaya having sex, and I cannot. If they do, it is wispy, indistinct sex, and again, when I think of Blu, I think of Gerard & Jacques, Love Pistols, and some dirty Hinako Takanaga stuff. But maybe I only remember dirty Blu series, and they published some less explicit stuff, too. It’s been many moons since Blu released a book.
Anyway, on with Earthian. These books are certainly the prettiest ones Blu released.